CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes on the evolving tussle for national chairmanship in APC and PDP.
At the heart of the tussle within the major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is who controls the levers of power in the platforms.
While other parties appear to have gone into hibernation, waiting to resurface months before the general election, the rumble in the political space has, so far, been defined by the tussle among the political camps in APC and PDP.
Interestingly, both parties would hold elective national conventions this year. While APC's convention would hold in June, PDP's is billed for either November or December.
However the unfolding tussle within both parties, according to pundits, underscores how fiesty the battle for who get the presidential ticket will be.
In APC, the battle for who controls the soul of the party heightened with the ouster of former chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, last year.
The drama that trailed his removal gave a hint into the undercurrents on who controls the party. However, the emergence of a national caretaker commitee under the leadership of Yobe State governor Mai Mala Buni, had helped to stem an larger crisis, it would seem.
However, with the national convention of the party fixed for June, the battle for who emerges the party chairman is heating up.
So far, party juggernauts such as Sunny Moniedafe, Ali Modu Sheriff, Clement Ebri, Abdulaziz Yari, Senator Kashim Shettima, Alhaji Salihu Mustapha and the immediate past governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Tanko Al-makura, have indicated interest to lead the party.
The tussle so far revolves around clamour for zoning along lines of region and the camps within the APC.
In the PDP, the national chairman Prince Uche Secondus has not had it easy. The past few months have been tough for the NWC led by Secondus.
At the turn of this year, move to remove Secondus emerged. The move according to party sources was instigated by a governor from the South South who, having fallen with Secondus, was set to ensure he is removed.
It was learnt that the campaign, driven by the politics of 2023, is to stop the Secondus-led NWC from returning to the party leadership ahead of the national convention later this year.
With the intrigues for his removal mounting, LEADERSHIP learnt that top party leaders intervened, urging against any power change that would through the party into a leadership crisis reminiscent of the post-2015 tussle between Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff camps which brought the party to its knees.
However, the recent vote of confidence passed on Secondus' leadership by the second largest organ of the PDP gave the embattled chairman some breather.
But that gesture was instructive and insightful in light of unfolding events within the party.
It was learnt that the motion for vote of confidence was moved by the former Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, and was seconded by former minister of foreign affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi.
But how far the motion will go in the face of the unfolding intrigues in the party, especially as the clamour for power shift in party leadership mounts, is another matter.
However, the import of who serves as chairman of a party cannot be overemphasized even though Nigeria's contemporary political history shows that they are usually at the mercy of other influential stakeholders in the party.
A cursory look shows that party governors have largely dictated the pace of affairs within the parties. This is more so because the governors, besides being the financial backbone of the party (in the case of the opposition party), are regarded as the field commanders of their parties thanks to their as far as elections are concerned.
This scenario is however dependent on how influential the president is the case of a ruling party.
During the PDP years, most party chairmen were sacked largely because the governors became uncomfortable with the party chairmen. From Alhaji Bamanga Tukur to Okwesilieze Nwodo, Adamu Mu'azu and Ali Modu-Sheriff were edged out by the governors of the party.
However, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Prince Vincent Ogbulafor were forced out of office by former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, respectively.
Other party chairmen, like Chief Barnabas Gemade, Col Ahmadu Ali, Dr Halliru Bello, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, Sen Ahmed Makarfi, were sustained in office within framework of their mandates in office because their interests aligned with the dominant power block at the time.
In APC, Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun was edged out because he lost the backing of some influential party members who got the support of the party's governors to ease him out of office.
Oshiomhole was equally sacked because most of the influential governors were displeased with his handling of the Edo State governorship election.
However while party leaders fight over who occupies positions, the impact of such tussle on the polity vis-a-vis governance has remained a major concern.
For a political space lacking in ideology, many analysts aver that this search for who occupies the top sit would mean little for the quality governance.
Analysts and coordinator of Political Thinktank, Biodun Ajiboye said "party politics is all about internal contests for power. It's expected that battles and tussles for who dictates affairs in the party will keep having these tussle
"What we are concerned about is the impact of such tussle on the entire quality of governance. It is true that the party is supposed to be a vehicle to attain power. But it has a deeper function than that. It ought to be a haven of ideas to guide governance.
"It ought to constantly make its members who are elected into offices keep to the manifesto of the party which is the basis with which the party won election in the first place. But we have not seen that since 1999. We saw an attempt by PDP to do so at some point but it was more of political showmanship than a conscientious desire to serve," he said.
Another analyst Mike Obiekwe said while the battle for party chairman is normal, the quality of engagement is disturbing.
He said this sad scenario reflects the "priority placed on the need to occupy that office. As it stands now, none of the parties appear to be focused on how to place
"the politics of how to occupy the office seems to have trumped the essence of such an office. Maybe this is because the party chairmen are increasingly becoming mere figures heads because they don't seem to have much influence over some party members especially political office holders of the party like president and governors.
"In the second republic, we had a situation where party was truly supreme, it could summon office holders to make explanations on issues of governance. And there was discipline in the party. But we don't have that today largely because of militarisation of parties shortly after 1999 and later the monetisaton of politics," he stated.
As both parties and their leaders fixate on the race who occupies the top seat, it remains hazy whether the outcome of the race would translate to improved quality of life for the people.